May 19, 2008

Candy Fundraisers: Why Pay the Middleman?

ChocolateRemember the days when Girl Scouts and Camp Fire Girls were the only folks selling sweet stuff for charity? Now you can't turn around without someone peddling a chocolate bar, candle, or discount coupon on behalf of some charitable cause.

And the services providing these goods have mushroomed -- try Googling "fundraising" if you want to see what I mean. The Internet is awash with services promising to provide items everyone will want to buy, while making it easy for you, the nonprofit, to sell them.

So, I recognize that there's something to be said for ease of setup. And many small charitable groups rely on candy and other sales for a lot of their revenues. But as a donor, I'd always assumed, when laying out a ridiculous $2 for a candy bar, that much of the money was going to the charity. Now I see from these online providers that they're charging the charity as much as $1.20 a bar! (They don't always make that clear -- you may have to do the math yourself.) Meanwhile, they tout the virtues of a 40% profit to the charity. Hmm.

Why not just go down to your local drugstore or discount grocery, see what's on sale, and buy a few cases? A quick online search shows that various energy bars are on sale near where I live for only $1 apiece, and I'll bet I could do better if I looked harder.

You'll have to create your own forms for the volunteers to fill out when selling, but really not much more. And is that so much work compared to the time you'd spend online figuring out which middleman service offers the best services for the lowest (but not all that low) price? For no less work, you could easily have profits over 100%.